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Do Good: Center for Community Leadership helps nonprofits to step up their game

These days, more nonprofits than ever are bringing their organizations to the next level by teaming up with community leaders, movers, and shakers from the public, private, and government sectors. Smart move. And the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Community Leadership (CCL) is making it easier than ever for professionals and organizations to connect.


These days, more nonprofits than ever are bringing their organizations to the next level by teaming up with community leaders, movers, and shakers from the public, private, and government sectors. Smart move. And the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Community Leadership is making it easier than ever for professionals and organizations to connect.
CCL’s community leadership program, Leadership Grand Rapids (LGR), helps educate and connect leaders from business, nonprofits, and government. Celebrating its 30th anniversary next year, the program provides participants with a solid understanding of our community’s opportunities and challenges, and expands awareness of their roles as community trustees.
Now there’s another component to CCL: an event called Board Connect, which held its first gathering on August 14 at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. Made possible by a grant from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Board Connect 2014 expanded on last year’s small pilot, in which eight out of 15 participating nonprofits connected with LGR grads. Plans are to make Board Connect an annual experience.

“The event offered service opportunities at the board, committee, and volunteer levels,” says Kim McLaughlin, director of CCL. “This year, 35 organizations in need of qualified professionals participated based upon LGR program graduates’ surveyed areas of interest.” McLaughlin will now follow up with nonprofits and grads to get a sense of who is interested in teaming up with which organization, and then help facilitate the connections.

Participants in CCL get intensive training, build active networks, and acquire valuable resources to help them engage in community change. The knowledge and skills they acquire also enable them to innovate within their companies and help shape their careers. The nine-month program includes tours of the city and several organizations; presentations; group projects; and discussions with influential leaders. CCL mines the individual and collective talents of people from myriad public, private, and service sectors; and it teaches students firsthand how the sectors interact and interrelate.

LGR students experience Grand Rapids as a classroom. The program begins with a two-day retreat in September. From October through May, the class meets the third Thursday of each month. Sessions examine essential needs, public safety, quality of life, philanthropy, community health, community trusteeship, and economic prosperity. Participants meet, interact, and connect with like-minded individuals. Source.

Panel discussions; timely, pertinent presentations; workshops; conferences; and webcasts round out the rest of the program. After nine months, participants commonly view the community in a new and deeper way, and they better understand their roles as stewards of the community.

It’s an ongoing process. Over 1,500 CCL program alumni currently comprise a diverse network of community contacts, and alumni may further their education by attending additional tours, workshops, and presentations to boost their leadership skills throughout the year. These events also offer opportunities to reconnect with fellow graduates.

LGR has a great track record for shaping current and emerging leaders who have the talent and means to make a positive impact in the community. It’s a win-win-win proposition: Professionals from a number of sectors -- including healthcare, manufacturing, education, the arts, government, and community organizations -- provide participants with a valuable network of resources. LGR participants with newfound skills and knowledge become more effective as leaders in the community, as well as their organizations. And with a stream of new LGR graduates serving as volunteers and board members, nonprofits can really step up their game.

Most graduates of LGR stay involved in the community long after they leave the program. As one example, in early May, the LGR class of 2011 got together and worked on two separate Habitat for Humanity landscaping projects.

Interested individuals may apply for the CCL program from the first Monday in February through the first Friday in May. A selection committee prefers candidates that exhibit a comprehensive range of criteria: the individual’s community involvement, his or her capacity to be a community trustee, and the sector (e.g., banking, nonprofit, health care, etc.) he or she represents. The committee then interviews each candidate and names the 35-member class in July. Tuition is $2,750. Most candidates are sponsored by their employers, but a limited number of partial scholarships are available.

The program is ideal for individuals who want to become immersed in community issues. The program itself says "the reward is diversity in thought and process, and ultimately, the connections that change systems to better serve our whole community." Source.

Graduates of LGR say that it’s perfect for “current and emerging leaders who want to have a significant impact on Grand Rapids' future well-being in the areas of education, arts, economic development, government and public policy, land use and the environment, the role of nonprofits, and the criminal justice system.” Source.

“We have a generous community, and we’re seeing a shift in generations with respect to philanthropy,” says McLaughlin. “It’s cool to see younger people get interested in something like this.”

Get involved:

- Apply for the CCL program! Applications will be available in February.
- Sponsor the Chamber.
- Join a committee and share your knowledge.

Victoria Mullen is the Do Good editor for Rapid Growth Media.

Images by Adam Bird Photography



 
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